Picture of inside a poly tunnel

At Lindegaarden, Ida-Marie is on a mission to reconnect people with nature through farming while regenerating the soil and growing healthy food.

Growing up in a small town in Northern Jutland, Ida-Marie was always fascinated by her environment. Her parents had a strong awareness of their surroundings, and her father would often stop and excitedly say ‘look at this!’ upon seeing an insect or interesting plant on the ground. Now, as we walk around the farm at Lindegaarden, she tells me how the outdoors gives her a sense of calm and happiness; it is a source of mental comfort.

After farming for four seasons at Lindegaarden – a small-scale vegetable farm just south of Denmark’s largest lake – it is perhaps this innate connection and familiarity with nature attained in her early years that has driven Ida-Marie to devote herself to regenerating the soil and increasing biodiversity.

In January 2019, with her fascination with nature invigorated by her childhood, she decided to go to a Danish højskole to learn about permaculture and how to produce food while simultaneously caring for the earth. Afterwards, she did an internship at Permakulturhaven Myrrhis in Jutland, where she delved deeper into permaculture design systems and learned about different regenerative agriculture methods and perennial vegetables.

It was then, in 2019, that she saw a post about the possibility of taking over the farm in Lille Lyngby. The plot is owned by a chef named Francis and his wife Henriette, who host long-table dinners where up to 35 people come to enjoy a three-course menu in a cosy barn. They intend to use vegetables and herbs from Ida-Marie’s garden – in a sense, it acts as a small cooperative.

The farm has huge variety with the forest garden making a green belt around the space, featuring both perennials and nitrogen-fixing plants. While the former stay in the soil and live for many years, the latter produce nitrogen that the surrounding plants absorb and benefit from. The vegetation is laid out strategically. While this encourages photosynthesis, two large polytunnels mimic warmer conditions, helping to grow plants earlier in the year.

The focus at Lindegaarden is on strengthening the ecosystem by neither digging nor turning the soil. When it comes to organic materials and compost, Ida-Marie only sources these from local farms in the area. Turning the soil means that the microorganisms and fungus within are killed and their growth must start afresh. Without these nutrients, the plants have nothing to exchange their sugars with. All this results in our food lacking nutrients and minerals.

They also rotate the types of vegetables grown every year so that different kinds don’t occupy the same spots each season – variety in the plants means increased biodiversity. In 2023, Lindegaarden had 102 different varieties of annual vegetables and herbs planted, as well as around 100 varieties of perennials.

Stress and wellbeing

When Ida-Marie began Lindegaarden, she soon realised the need to balance hard work with the ability to rest. Her own experience of working relentlessly to establish the farm in 2021 meant that she temporarily had to take a step back. By her own admission, she became very stressed during this time, working alone in a manner she now realises was unsustainable.

In 2022, she was only at the farm to look after the trees and bushes, and three other women took care of the produce. According to Ida-Marie, it is difficult to just go straight into farming full-time because of a lack of immediate income. In her case at least, it is something that needs to be slowly built up by establishing the farm whilst earning a living in other ways.

Currently, she is studying at the same time as working on the farm, getting help from Karoline (a partner in the business) and sometimes organising work days where both family and willing helpers come together and assist. Now, while she acknowledges that her farming and studies mean that she must work all the time, she knows that such a situation must be temporary.

‘To do all the other things, you have to feel good on the inside. It is important that the people around you are in a good place and feel safe, and I don’t want to be a part of a system where people are burning out and don’t have time to think.’

Ida-Marie wants Lindegaarden to be a place where people are calm and happy enough to live a good life. Farming cannot come at the expense of people’s well-being. While the farm’s central aim may be to grow healthy vegetables, fruit and herbs in a way that strengthens the ecosystem and micro life in the soil, care for the earth is strongly linked to care for people.

Connection and communication

In line with permaculture, which is essentially a philosophy of working with nature, Ida-Marie also believes in the value of connection. The methods of farming she uses are not just practical ways of producing healthy food, but embodiments of her beliefs, beliefs that she wants to share with others. Although she admits that it is not everyone who will go out in the world and be excited about plants and insects, for her we can always gain meaning through connection.

‘It’s not so long ago that we became separated from nature. If you’d never seen a forest before, you wouldn’t have a true connection to it. When you learn about it, then it means something to you.’

By explaining the variety of growing methods and products at Lindegaarden, she wants to make it clear to people that there are many different ways to grow and consume food. This is why she has chosen to study Natural and Cultural Heritage Management. The course focuses on learning to create and communicate experiences and attractions within nature and culture. Ida-Marie intends to use it to help communicate how she grows produce at Lindegaarden to a wider pool of people.

Communication is also a part of why she is selling her vegetables at Grønt Marked’s farmers markets. It may first and foremost be a way to sell her product without travelling around to multiple delivery locations, but it also presents the opportunity to explain the methods used at Lindegaarden and connect people with the food they eat.

In Ida-Marie’s view, the people who come to the market are often enthusiasts; explorers who know what they want to buy but don’t know the ins and outs of how the produce is farmed. Then, there are those who simply come for the experience, but they too can become interested in the details while at the market.

Overall, she sees Grønt Marked as offering the chance to connect with more people and communicate her message. It is something she wants to continue doing while both Lindegaarden and Grønt Marked exist. This, however, is just one of her goals: she also wants to hold long-table dinners at the farm, set up a garden store, and sell to restaurants and cafes.

As we leave the farm, Ida-Marie pauses for reflection:

‘I guess, if I were to sum up the reason why I do it, it is a way to try to deal with today’s crises in a practical way. It’s a good feeling to be close to the basic need of growing food and sharing it with other people. It’s all about trying to make a change, hopefully, something good. That’s what I want to do.’